Feast day: 7th of October
From its beginning the Order of Preachers has shown special honor and devotion to Mary, Mother of God. The Rosary, which places before us the chief mysteries of the life, passion and resurrection of our Savior, has been one of the chief ways in which the Order has expressed this devotion. Our brother, Alan de La Roche (1428-1478) helped to define the structure of the Rosary and zealously promoted its recitation. At Douai in 1470 he established the first Rosary Confraternity. In 1476 our brother Jacob Sprenger established at Cologne the first such Confraternity which had papal approval. Pope Saint Pius V gave the Rosary definitive form in is bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifcis (September 17, 1569).
Today’s feast commemorates the great naval victory won by Christian forces over the Turks at Lepanto on Sunday, October 7, 1571. Pope Saint Pius V decreed that a feast in honor of Our Lady of Victories be celebrated each year on that day. His successor, Gregory XIII, transferred the feast to the first Sunday of October under the new title of the Most Holy Rosary, since it was precisely through the invocation of Our Lady of the Rosary that the victory was thought to have been gained. In the reform of the liturgy the feast was returned to its original day.
The second reading (of the Office of Readings) taken from the supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers:
From the Exposition on the Greeting of the Angel by Saint Thomas Aquinas.
“Mary was full of grace; this grace was poured out upon the human race.”
Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. This salutation has three parts. The angel gave one part, namely: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women. The other part was given by Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, namely: Blessed is the fruit of your womb. The Church adds the third part, that is, Mary, because the angel did not say, Hail, Mary, but Hail, full of grace. But, as we shall see, this name, “Mary,” according to its meaning agrees with the words of the angel.
Concerning the first part of this prayer we must now consider that in ancient times it was no small event when angels appeared to human beings; and that they should show them reverence was especially praiseworthy. Thus, it is written to the praise of Abraham that he received the angels with all courtesy and showed them reverence. But that an angel should show reverence to a human being was never heard of until the angel reverently greeted the Blessed Virgin saying: Hail.
Mary was full of grace which overflowed from her soul into her flesh. For it is a great thing among the saints that an abundance of grace sanctified their souls, yet the soul of the Blessed Virgin was so filled with grace that from her soul grace poured into her flesh. Because of this grace she conceived the Son of God. Hugh of St. Victor says of this: “Because the love of the Holy Spirit so inflamed her soul, the Spirit worked a wonder in. her flesh, in that from it was born God made Man.” Therefore the child to be born of you will be called the Son of God.
The fullness of grace in Mary was such that its effects overflow upon the human race. It is a great thing for a saint to possess the grace sufficient for his or her salvation; it is a greater thing for one to possess the grace sufficient for the salvation of many; but the greatest thing is to posses the grace sufficient for the salvation of the entire human race. This latter case is true of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin. For in every danger you may obtain salvation through the glorious Virgin herself. Thus it is said, on it hang a thousand bucklers, that is, remedies against dangers. Likewise, in every work of virtue you may have her as a helper. For she herself says: In me is all hope of life and virtue. Therefore, Mary is full of grace, exceeding the angels in this fullness and very fittingly is she called “Mary” which means “enlightened in herself:” The Lord will fill your soul with brightness. She will illumine others throughout the world, and so she is compared to the sun and to the moon.
The Lord is with you are the most noble words that the angel could have uttered. Hence, the angel deservedly reverenced the Blessed Virgin because she is the Mother of the Lord and therefore Our Lady. Accordingly she is very well named “Mary,” which in the Syrian tongue means “Lady.”
The Blessed Virgin exceeds the angels in purity. She is not only pure, but she obtains purity for others. Indeed, she is purity itself, totally free of the guilt of sin, for she never incurred original, mortal or venial sin. Likewise, she was free from the penalty of sin. Because she was immune from these punishments, she is blessed among women. Moreover, she alone escaped the curse of sin, brought forth the Source of blessing, and opened the gate of heaven. It is surely fitting that her name is “Mary,” which is interpreted as “Star of the Sea,” for just as sailors are directed to port by the star of the sea, so Christians are guided by Mary to glory.